"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, April 21, 2008

To Ethiopia and Back -- Part II

To Ethiopia and Back Part II

From Part I...
We headed back to the hotel, prayed, and fell asleep right away.
We both slept pretty well, all things considered!

We woke up and I felt like I was in a movie... the alarm went off and my eyes popped open and I said, "TODAY IS THE DAY!" We could hardly believe it! We quickly got up showered and dressed. It was then that I realized I had left my curler, that would make my bangs somewhat normal for the next 8 days, at home... I asked the front desk for a pair of scissors and went to work chopping! It was bad. We spent less than 2 minutes praying for safe travels, for the kids, for grandparents and off we went. We got to the airport to find that our flight had been delayed... we were told that we would make our next flight so we settled in! It was at that moment I went looking for hair help! Did you know they have a salon in the Portland Airport? The kind hairdresser trimmed/fixed my bangs and I was off to find earrings (which I had also forgotten). I found a cute cheap pair and went to hang out with Rebecca and Ben. We were all giddy at this point and I think the people around us may have thought we were a tad bit crazy. We were making jokes and having a great time! When it was time to board our plane we were worn out (it was only 9:30) and were looking forward to a nap on the plane. I remember pretty much nothing of that flight except that the houses near Dulles are BEAUTIFUL! I was amazed at the mansions and beauty of DC in March! We got to DC and were put on this really weird PEOPLE MOVER thing! It is like a giant boxcar that gets driven all over the airport. We were taken to our gate where we were told that our flight was delayed... panic set in and we got stressed!

We quickly called our travel agent who assured us that we would be fine... a connection at the Cairo airport would not be a problem. We had dinner (paid for by Lufthansa) and settled in to wait! We finally got on the plane and endured the worst part of our travel. The flight was really hot and completely full. I prayed throughout the night that some day I would forget how horrible it had been! When we arrived in Frankfurt we discovered that we had missed our flight by 10 minutes and were sent to see an agent. We waited in line for about 2 hours with 20 - 30 others who were also traveling to Ethiopia. Some of the men had been with us in Dulles and I dubbed them THE TENNIS TEAM -- it didn't matter that they only had 1 tennis racket among the 12 of them... they were, and forever would be, The Tennis Team. We were told that we would be flying through Cairo and would arrive in Ethiopia only 6 hours later than planned! We enjoyed another meal which was partially paid for by Lufthansa... It was actually a $116 meal but we did have about $40 worth of meal vouchers.

I would say that the only good thing about our layover was that Ben got to have a beer in Germany and we all got to change clothes.
By this time we had been traveling for about 28 hours (not including our night in the hotel in Portland) and it was so good to have clean clothes on. When we boarded our plane to Cairo we were so excited to each have an entire row to stretch out on... I slept for about 3 hours which was by far the most sleep I had had yet! I was so relaxed and getting so excited for the next part... then we landed in Cairo! EEEKKK!

Let me start by saying that Cairo is beautiful. They have these ornate street lights that light the entire city, you can see them from the plane and it looks almost magical. When we landed in Cairo we were herded into a waiting bus... much like at Portland Airport. I didn't realize that anything was amiss until I noticed that there was only 1 other woman on our bus. Then I thought about the fact that I was wearing a t-shirt, carpi's and sandals. Not innapropriate by our standards, but certainly not modest by Muslim standards. It was at that moment when Ben glared at me. Rebecca and I had been talking and there were 2 men on the bus who were scowling at us and it made Ben nervous. We were quiet for the rest of our trip - but we did NOT know where we were going. After about 15 minutes we arrived at a wing of the airport where men were standing holding signs for arriving guests. We were very confused by this and became concerned -- they told us to go stand in a room with the other passengers. This room was windowless and had only 1 exit and was comprised of 50 or so men and Rebecca and I. The cigarette smoke was overwhelming and we were so very confused. A long and somewhat nerve racking 20 minutes passed before we were told to get on another bus. We truly had NO IDEA what was happening or where they were taking us. We ended up in another terminal of the airport where we were led into a building with a security checkpoint. The checkpoint moved fairly quickly but we were leaving in less than 40 minutes... After examining our bags, passports, and tickets we were led to another security clearance point. The podium that they use for the initial passport screening had a Muslim prayer rug folded and ready and many of the men working at the airport were wearing traditional Muslim clothing. It truly felt like we were in another world. By now we knew that our plane was leaving in less than 30 minutes and somehow we kept moving farther away from the front of the line... the Cairo airport did not have a good NO CUTTING rule in effect :) We were all getting stressed knowing that there were no flights for 2 more days to Addis and we were wondering if they would even let us into the country without visas. Ben (in a moment of clarity) grabbed all 3 of our passports and PUSHED his way to the front. He says now that the clerk must have seen the desperation in his eyes because he quickly processed us and allowed us into the real airport. We left behind about 30 other passengers (including The Tennis Team) who did not end up making it onto the flight -- I keep wondering what happened to them. We then walked to our gate where we were screened again and were finally able to sit down at the gate. Can you see the pure joy and relief on our faces in the picture?

After less than 10 minutes we were screened AGAIN and then loaded onto another bus which took us to our airplane. We were on a fairly full flight but were still able to sleep. Throughout the 50 hours of travel we must have said 1,000 times, "can you believe we are going to ETHIOPIA???" The last 2 hours of our flight was surreal. We were so amazed and thankful that God had brought us to this place to bring our children home!

When we landed in Addis we quickly got off the plane, got visas, exchanged money, picked up our bags (THEY ALL MADE IT) and met Kassahoun who was employed by our agency and loved by our kids. He looked almost as tired as we did and was anxious to get us settled. He told us that he would be back at 11 to take us to pick up our kids. Woo Hoo! Driving through Addis at 4 am can lead you to believe that it is just like downtown LA or Portland (almost). We arrived at the Hilton and were surprised to see guards with AK-47's at the gate. We took our zillion bags inside and checked in quickly. A bellboy (that certainly cannot be politically correct) took our bags ahead of us and we all got into the elevator. Rebecca got off at the 5th floor and we pushed the button up to the 7th. As soon as the doors closed the power went off. We heard Rebecca yelp a bit but somehow did not panic. We attempted to pry open the doors, in our sleep fatigued state we must have thought we were Mr. and Mrs. McGyver, but we were stuck between floors. As we began to pray the power came on and we were on our way to our floor. We got to our room and felt like we were in heaven. It was lovely (not by American Hilton standards) and was to be our home for the next 6 days. We were so glad to be there. We ordered room service and ate the pancakes while unpacking and organizing. It was SUPER important to me that our room, the kids clothes, the kids backpacks ready, the bathroom be clean and WELL organized... I even wished I had brought some baskets to make it easier and more beautiful. I realize now that it was a bit silly but have chalked it up to Sleep Deprived Nesting which I have heard can be fatal :). So after 2 hours of frantic organinzing and bossing Ben around we fell asleep. We were surprised that we slept so well and woke up around 10:15. We showered and headed down to wait for Kassahoun in the lobby. I wandered over to the bakery and picked up a couple croissants and pretzels but we were all too excited to eat. Around 11:30 (considered on time by Ethiopian standards) we were loaded into the van to meet our kids. We rode to the Care Center with Nancy who was picking up her 8 year old twins, we had met at a training in Spokane back in November -- it was so fun to be together for this amazing day. Seeing Addis during the day was completely different and yet my mind was so focused on what was happening that I didn't even truly see it! I remember pulling up to the gate and getting out of the car. I remember saying something to Ben about not being very nervous and he agreed. I remember hearing Rebecca (it sounded as if she were underwater) saying something about our brain not processing things when it is so overwhelmed. I remember praying as Kassahoun knocked on the gate, "God prepare me so that when I am disappointed that it doesn't show... prepare me so that if the kids are sad or even angry that I don't take it personally". And then the gate opened!

1 comment:

rebecca said...

Oh come now, I did not yelp. I am not the yelping sort. I went back to the elevator doors (quietly) and asked if you guys were stuck in the elevator. Sheesh.